Another weather window gave us the opportunity to tick off some more hills on a post-lockdown Highland holiday and after much deliberation, I felt it was high time that I bagged my first Munro on Skye. The obvious choice for an introduction to the island’s mountains was Bla Bheinn and what a day it turned out to be!
There are certainly worse drives on a hill day than from our accommodation in Kishorn to Loch Slapin on Skye. It’s difficult to avoid spending the entire journey with your eyes glued to the mountains, forests and water. It didn’t help that it was a completely cloudless and calm morning with a slight mist coming off the sea lochs in the early morning. What a way to start the day!
The drive from Kishorn to the car park on the shores of Loch Slapin took around 1hr 20mins and included a quick pitstop in Broadford. We arrived at the car park and were ready to go shortly after 0900. By now it was already fairly busy (on a Wednesday in the middle of September), so it’s definitely worth arriving early, though it’s no secret how popular this mountain is!
The hill walk was fairly short by our standards (but it’s not one to be underestimated at any time of year) and started with an easy warm up, climbing gently through the heather and passing some lovely waterfalls as we headed into Coire a’Caise. Just over a mile in, the path crossed a couple of streams and from here it was a steeper and slightly rougher climb – still on a good path – towards Fionna-choire.
The views in every direction were sensational and the rocky buttresses of Bla Bheinn and Clach Glas were jaw-dropping – I couldn’t believe it’d taken me this long to tick off some of Skye’s mountains!
Once roughly half the height was climbed, we turned north east away from the obvious path and followed a slightly grassier one towards a large rocky gully. The going was now much steeper in places, but other than the very loose gully itself, reasonably simple to navigate. The higher we climbed, the better the views became too. It was also becoming obvious why the car park was so busy too, with a few groups of people passing us on their way down and the odd collection of small figures visible every now and again on Bla Bheinn’s southern ridge, an alternative ascent route.
The steep rocky terrain continued and only required the use of hands a couple of times, but the sustained ascent meant we had gained height very quickly and were making pretty good progress. Although spectacular, our views on the ascent had consisted mostly of the Red Cuillin, but we knew what awaited us once we reached the summit.
Around 2hrs 30mins after leaving the car park, we reached the summit of Bla Bheinn. At 928 metres, this is one of the smaller Munros (around the same height as Beinn Narnain), but it makes you work hard for the pleasure of admiring its summit views. Speaking of which, these were utterly jaw dropping. The only minor disappointment was that a band of cloud was quickly forming over the top of the Cuillin ridge, but for me this only added to the drama of the place. Glen Sligachan below looked empty and barren and the panoramic views were some of the best I’d seen. We were so lucky to have managed this walk plus our Mamores adventure earlier in the week.
Although a very pleasant day, there was a chilly breeze on the summit and Sarah was starting to feel the cold, so we scoffed the rest of our snacks and packed up to head back towards the car. Just as we left the summit, a brief shower passed over and stayed for 20-30mins or so – just enough to make everything a little more slippy than on the ascent. We took extra care on our way down and retraced our steps down the steep rocky section, through the loose gully, onto the grassy slopes above Fionna-choire and eventually back onto the good path down to Loch Slapin.
We arrived back at the car just before 1400 – with a few stops, the whole walk had taken us 4hrs 45mins. Pleased with our efforts, we packed the car and headed for Portree for an ice cream and a quick wander round before the long and beautiful drive back to Kishorn for the night. What an epic day in the mountains!